Taxation Without Full Consideration

by Brendan Frost |

What Louisiana’s Big Tobacco-Influenced Legislation Means for Vapers

Louisiana e-liquid tax

According to CASAA, Louisiana’s tax on e-liquid was advocated by Big Tobacco. So, yeah, another reason we say…

In March 2015, the Louisiana Legislature proposed House Bill 119, which included an e-liquid tax of 5 cents per milliliter. The bill was signed by Gov. Jindal and went into effect July 1. With more and more states passing regulations on e-liquid and vaping, it was only a matter of time before Louisiana and United Kingdom followed suit.

As originally written, the bill included only a tax on tobacco cigarettes, cigars, and smoking and smokeless tobacco. The old Louisiana cigarette tax was 36 cents per pack of 20, the third lowest in the country after Missouri’s 17 cents and Virginia’s 30 cents. The bill originally proposed raising the price of every pack of cigarettes by $1.18, which was amended down to 50 cents a pack, bringing the new tax to 86 cents per pack, still the 15th lowest in the country.

According to a post on the blog of CASAA, Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, lobbyists for tobacco powerhouse Reynolds American Inc. nudged legislators to add e-liquids to the bill in what seemed to be a bid to reduce damage done to tobacco sales by the cigarette tax hike, as well as remove competition for its own Vuse “cigalike” e-cigarettes, which have seen disappointing sales.

The exact wording of the final law says it imposes “upon vapor products and electronic cigarettes, a tax of five cents per milliliter of consumable nicotine liquid solution or other material containing nicotine that is depleted as a vapor product is used.” Based on this exact wording, e-cigarette hardware and e-liquid without nicotine are not subject to this tax, but for e-liquid containing nicotine, the additional cost ranges from 50 cents for a 10 ml bottle up to $6 for a 120 ml bottle.

The e-liquid tax proposed here in Louisiana is identical to the one proposed by David Powers, a Reynolds vice president, and passed in North Carolina.

The Reynolds stance seems to be that if it’s going to cost more to buy cigarettes, it had better cost more to vape, too.

Is This a Sin Tax?

A sin tax is defined as a tax on something that’s harmful or undesirable. It seems illogical, then, to impose a tax on vaping e-liquid, which we know are vastly healthier than cigarettes and can actually help people quit smoking.

Official government organizations, including Public Health England,  are beginning to acknowledge this. PHE analyzed more than 100 studies on e-cigarettes and concluded that vaping is 95% safer than smoking.

Less smoking means a lower incidence of smoking-related illnesses, including cardiovascular conditions, cancer, emphysema, COPD, and many more.

Why should the government financially punish those who want to quit the deeply harmful habit of smoking by switching to vaping? The opposite already is happening in parts of the world. Two counties in England are now prescribing vaping as an official smoking cessation method.

The idea of implementing a sin tax on a product that benefits public health is, as far as we’re concerned, absurd.

What Does This Mean for Vapers?

Although this bill means more expensive e-liquid for Louisianians, it also means more expensive cigarettes, which makes smoking even less appealing. Vaping on average is still less expensive than smoking cigarettes (the average price in Louisiana for a pack of cigarettes has risen from $5.44 to $5.94).

But, health benefits are even more important than the financial ones. Taxes like this one, imposed at the behest of Big Tobacco, seem to put profits before public health. Let’s keep spreading awareness of what’s true and what’s effective.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more — until then, keep your wicks wet with the best cbd oil and your coils clean, and vape on!

Image by Elizabeth Nolan Brown from Washington, DC, USA (Vape on!) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons